SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Fifteen years ago, the Arellano Felix drug cartel was in control of the narcotics trade in Tijuana, but as it became less and less relevant due to attrition and arrests of its top leaders, two other cartels moved in making the region more violent than ever, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration in San Diego.
“The reason it’s violent is because there are three different organizations at play in Tijuana,” said DEA Agent Randy Bordalo.
Bordalo is an Intelligence Research Specialist with the DEA, gathering intel and tracking drug cartel operations in the San Diego-Tijuana region.
“The two most dominant cartels are Jalisco and Sinaloa cartels, and remnants of the Arellano Felix cartel have never really gone away,” said Bordalo. “If you can control the area, you can position yourself well in the trade.”
But without a clear group in control, the violence has escalated.
“In the last 15 years, there’s been a push to get a user population in Mexico as an additional revenue stream and that is also contributing to the violence … that’s not the traditional trafficking, that’s the local trafficking where you are trying to hold on to street corners.”
Bordalo said this has led to even more bloodshed on the streets of Tijuana.
During the last three years, Tijuana has averaged more than 2,000 murders per year and the city has been labeled as “the most violent in the world, Baja California’s Attorney General said.
With cartels turning their attention to selling their products south of the border, they continue to fight over the lucrative pathways into California.
“With the proximity to Los Angeles, which is a major transportation hub, a tremendous amount of drugs flows through this specific drug-trafficking corridor,” said Bordalo. “In terms of fentanyl, methamphetamine and cocaine, they are crossing the border from Tijuana into San Diego in record numbers.”
Bordalo said fentanyl has become a high-value drug for cartels, and a lot of it is being made in Tijuana with materials from China.
“There’s definitely an established link between groups based in Mexico and groups based in China, something the DEA is constantly investigating,” said Bordalo. “I do know that San Diego and Tijuana are a major transportation zone for fentanyl and a lot of it entering domestically goes through Baja California into the United States.”
Bordalo told Border Report that fentanyl and other drugs enter California through busy ports of entry such as San Ysidro and the Otay Mesa Commercial crossings, and under the cover of darkness, a lot of narcotics end up on Southern California beaches before being transported on highways along the coastline.
“And you’re starting to see ultralight aircraft and drone air systems’ activity as well, ranging as far out as Imperial County in sparsely populated desert areas to San Diego as well,” Bordalo said.
The DEA reportedly has offices throughout Mexico, including Tijuana, tracking the cartels’ movements and their money-laundering operations, something Bordalo confirms.
“We work closely with our Mexican counterparts and are embedded in certain groups and that is certainly a big part of these complex investigations to see how these drug proceeds repatriate back into Mexico.”